Once upon a time there lived a very kind Cambodian lady named Botevy who saw a need.  She came across so many children in need of love and education, many who had lost their parents…kids who needed something to hold onto to make it through life.  And because of her good and kind heart she decided she was going to find a way to give them a chance in life.  She herself had lived through the horror of the Khmer Rouge.  Something that had every reason to harden her heart and make her bitter.  But she too, just like the boy I listened to on my headset in the “killing fields,” knew intuitively that forgiveness and love was a better way to answer her pain and loss.

So she started an “orphanage” to take kids in need under her wing (that’s in quotes because some of the kids still have parents who just can’t care for them). From the beginning it was a rocky road trying to find funding and how to really best take care of these kids in need, but because of Botevy’s faith and perseverance “Cambodian and International Children Friend Community” (CICFO) is alive and running beautifully today…

…and it is a pretty amazing place, I tell you!

I had always been fascinated by pictures of Angkor Wat which drew me to Cambodia (coming next), but a few years ago when I got an email from a friend telling me about CICFO something in my heart made me determined we’d go there some day. My friend had sent bios of the kids who lived there and something about those stories spoke to me like nothing else.  I was dying to meet them.
And they certainly didn’t disappoint.

We tried to think of a good service project we could do for/with them that day, but Botevy told us the best thing we could do with the short amount of time we had was just to visit.

So we did.

And I think everyone in our group would agree that the best day of the whole trip was the one we got to spend in the oppressive Cambodian heat amidst the kids at CICFO. 

With the help of Botevy, this small little place at the end of a bumpy road is the home of the sweetest, most kind and welcoming “family” I have ever met. 

My friend had told me that the spirit in that place was quite amazing, and she was right.  We arrived to hugs and huge smiles from every one of them and then a little welcome ceremony where they told us their names and sang us some songs. 2014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 13889

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Then we shared our little art project to “break the ice” a little bit.2014-09-28 cambodia 125302014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 13909

I will never forget the feeling of seeing my children snapping into action, surrounded by those sweet Cambodian ones, clearly enamored by each other in the oppressive heat under the green tarp they had put up for shade on a hot September day.2014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 139122014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 13921

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Jake taught them origami:2014-09-28 cambodia 125652014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 139262014-09-28 cambodia 125772014-09-28 cambodia 12576

And Claire taught them the “art” of rainbow loom elastic bracelets (although a few of them were already experts).2014-09-28 cambodia 125692014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 13942They made those woven bracelets…aren’t they great?

They fed us lunch.2014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 13940

I loved sitting on the hard floor sharing a meal with them, surrounded by books and wide smiles.2014-09-28 cambodia 125832014-09-28 cambodia 125842014-09-28 cambodia 125822014-09-28 cambodia 12590
For the rest of the afternoon we just made friends.  Lucy read them some books:2014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 139842014-09-28 Elle Cambodia 13991
Taylor taught them some mean dance-moves:

Claire played soccer with them for hours.
We played pat-a-cake games galore.2014-09-29 cambodia 12608

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Dave made them laugh trying to get to know their names.2014-09-29 cambodia 12609

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One of my favorite parts of the day was getting to know this cute boy here in the middle below:  2014-09-29 cambodia 12695Our families get to help sponsor him on his upcoming mission for our church.  He is one of the most prepared young men to go spread happiness I have ever met, so excited to go out and serve for two years.  Can’t wait to hear where he gets called.

After all the hoopla of the afternoon, it was time to get ready for the dance performance they wanted to do for us.2014-09-29 cambodia 12618
They were totally traditional Khmer (Cambodian) dances performed so beautifully by the kids, complete with face paint to make it more authentic.2014-09-29 Elle Cambodia 140372014-09-29 Elle Cambodia 140382014-09-29 Elle Cambodia 14053
First we had our own little Family Home Evening with them and a few of them, including Socheath, the one leaving on his mission soon, gave some beautiful thoughts.2014-09-29 cambodia 12626
Then the dance performance began.2014-09-29 cambodia 126312014-09-29 Elle Cambodia 140602014-09-29 cambodia 12635
It was performed on a green tarp in the middle of a courtyard of construction, which somehow didn’t take away of the beauty of the dances.  (The kids take dance classes each week and they really soak it all up.)2014-09-29 cambodia 12642
We knew they were all good dancers, but didn’t realize just how good until we saw a professional dance performance the next night. 

I liked the kids’ rendition of the traditional dances the best.2014-09-29 cambodia 12645

After all the dances were over, they invited us all up onto their “stage” to dance with them.2014-09-29 cambodia 126532014-09-29 cambodia 126622014-09-29 cambodia 12665
Loved it all.

We were in charge of dinner, and decided on hamburgers, which you can tell they were really sad about.2014-09-29 cambodia 12689Ha!

Then we said our sad goodbyes.2014-09-29 cambodia 12682
We left with new kindred friends woven into our hearts (Botevy is on the left, her daughters on the right).2014-09-29 cambodia 12696
…and inspiration to try to lift where we stand a little more just like wonderful Botevy has done in her own corner of the world.2014-09-29 cambodia 12701
So grateful for such great examples to live by.

And so grateful for CICFO and what it taught me and my family on that hot-as-blazes day tucked in the back streets of Phnom Penh amidst those I now call dear friends.

For more information about CICFO and opportunities to donate to such a great organization, click HERE

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One Comment

  1. What a wonderful experience! I too have also had a special place in my heart for Cambodians after knowing the most amazing Cambodian woman from my mission. I was jealous when I saw your earlier pictures visiting the beautiful land, but to be among these kids just makes me so happy. Thank you for sharing this. When I clicked on the link for cicfo it would not load. Even when I googled the organization and clicked on their link it would not load. Do they frequently have internet problems and I should just check back?

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